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Robotic Boat Hits 1,000-Mile Mark In Transatlantic Crossing

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the if-only-christopher-columbus-had-an-arduino-and-GPS dept.

Robotics 68

toygeek writes "'Scout,' a 4-meter-long autonomous boat built by a group of young DIYers, is attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It is traveling from Rhode Island, where it launched on 24 August, to Spain, where all being well it will arrive in a few months' time. Scout has now gone about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of its planned 3,700-mile (5,900 kilometer) journey. Should it complete this voyage successfully, its passage will arguably belong in the history books."

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History books?!?! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44980629)

Talk about a delusions of grandeur. A boat with a computer floated across the ocean.

Meanwhile, space probes have been going to other planets for more than half a century.

Somebody is WAAAAY too easily impressed. It's a cool achievment? But historic?!?!?!

Re: History books?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44980725)

So what have you done?

Re: History books?!?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44980733)

So what have you done?

First post?

Re:History books?!?! (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44980757)

Yes, it will be historic once it has completed it's journey [or even if it fails].

As in, it will have happened in the past, and therefore, by definition, part of history. Historic if you will.

Re:History books?!?! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44981295)

Its not the first robot boat to attempt a transatlantic crossing. A load of attempts have been made by sailing boats in the Microtransat Challenge (www.microtransat.org), but none of them have got anywhere near 1000 miles yet.

Re:History books?!?! (4, Funny)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#44980883)

Somebody is WAAAAY too easily impressed. It's a cool achievment? But historic?!?!?!

Its got "an Arduino, of course!" (*) in it .. surely that by itself is enough to make the history books?
 
* Direct quote from TFA .. including the exclamation mark.

Re:History books?!?! (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44981013)

Historic? Maybe, if the 'droid army it's carrying conquers Spain

Re:History books?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44981765)

So what? A metal box with a computer in it floated in a vacuum.

Re:History books?!?! (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about a year ago | (#44983509)

It's a cool achievment? But historic?!?!?!

Tides, rough seas, variable winds, rouge waves... space seems very peaceful in the turbulent vector changes department. Not saying there aren't dangerous conditions, but once you are headed in the correct direction in space you only have to worry about something smacking you in open space... or crippling programming errors that left your vessel blind and deaf. The sea might toss you multiple directions at the same time, and/or let you drop 40 feet from a wave crest. It would be something like a very prolonged launch stress test. So, yes, historic.

Re:History books?!?! (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44986305)

meh meh meh.
robot boats have gone the distances before.

it's the budget of the thing that makes it interesting - and the tech media likes it because of arduino..

Re:History books?!?! (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44986107)

In some ways, the boat is much more impressive. Space is a big empty. It is largely predictable. If you set the right trajectory at the start, it will end up where it's supposed to.

Now, just try to shove a boat off from the pier such that it crosses the ocean and comes to a stop on target.

Then, let's compare budgets.

getting an automated boat to cross the ocean successfully, particularly one built by a small team of DIYers is really quite impressive. It hasn't been accomplished to date but this attempt is looking pretty strong.

FIRST, let's answer the question you're all askin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44980637)

liquid robotics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44980693)

http://www.liquidr.com/

Cargo size? (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#44980785)

How much cocaine or heroin can you pack into one of these babies? I'm sure after trying their hand with human piloted semi-submersibles the cartels could be interested in autonomous vehicles.

After all if you can keeps the contents dry and keep the supply chain flowing it doesn't matter how long the transit time is.

Re:Cargo size? (2)

GIL_Dude (850471) | about a year ago | (#44980849)

They would need weaponized autonomous vehicles though. Otherwise the other drug runners would steal from them by capturing their autonomous vehicle. They would need to be hardened from a computer / radio front so that they can't simply be "hacked" to go to a different destination and they would need to be hardened to physical assault so that crazies in rubber boats wouldn't come steal the drugs or simply grab the whole unit.

Re:Cargo size? (3, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#44980913)

They would need weaponized autonomous vehicles though. Otherwise the other drug runners would steal from them by capturing their autonomous vehicle.

I severely doubt it. Picture a very low profile boat with a camouflage paint job that pics its own random course between the start and finish waypoints. And with enough smarts to know not to broadcast its whereabouts or to accept instructions from random transmitters. They only way you could intercept something like that is to accidentally hit it.

They actually use semi-submersibles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44981253)

Cartels have actually been using semi-subs that do float, but with not much out of the water. There have been some articles about them, and one captain has described making the journey (the cartel demanded his service after they paid for an operation that saved his son's life). Crews have been rescued after ditching the craft -- they're designed to be ditched very easily and quickly, on the assumption that if another boat is around the Law of the Sear will require the crew to pick up the semisub crew. Going autonomous would bring some advantages, but the remote care of an air-breathing diesel engine might be a bit trickier than the solar powered electrics on Scout.

Re:Cargo size? (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44981693)

They only way you could intercept something like that is to accidentally hit it.

Yes, brilliant.

To bad we have never invented something that could bounce sound waves off of objects in or under the water so that we could find them even when we can't see them.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | about a year ago | (#44981991)

They only way you could intercept something like that is to accidentally hit it.

Yes, brilliant.

To bad we have never invented something that could bounce sound waves off of objects in or under the water so that we could find them even when we can't see them.

To bad we haven't invented a way to cloak objects from said bounced sound waves... oh, wait...
http://gizmodo.com/5729554/this-device-makes-objects-invisible-to-sonar [gizmodo.com]

Re:Cargo size? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44983151)

To bad we have never invented something that could bounce sound waves off of objects in or under the water so that we could find them even when we can't see them.

Sonar doesn't work in choppy water where the object you're trying to find is smaller than the chop.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44983277)

Drug smuggling subs are not smaller than the chop. Google them.

Re:Cargo size? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44984609)

The average dog have less than four legs.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44984645)

Drug smuggling subs are not smaller than the chop.

Right now we're talking about boats, not u-boats. Note topic, try to keep up.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44988073)

We are also talking about boats with a useful drug carrying capacity.
So back to your bath with your toy boat son, this conversation is for adults.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44988431)

We are also talking about boats with a useful drug carrying capacity.

If they're cheap, then each one doesn't have to hold much. You clearly have no idea what these economies look like.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44988459)

Ah, yes, I do.

Why don't you play around and build a boat that will transport a pound of butter from central america to the coast of California and let us know your costs and success rate. When 99.9999% of your cargo does not get to where it has to be, it hardly matters how cheap the boat is.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44992573)

Especially if you make it submersible.

Re:Cargo size? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44980951)

They would need weaponized autonomous vehicles though. Otherwise the other drug runners would steal from them by capturing their autonomous vehicle. They would need to be hardened from a computer / radio front so that they can't simply be "hacked" to go to a different destination and they would need to be hardened to physical assault so that crazies in rubber boats wouldn't come steal the drugs or simply grab the whole unit.

Submersibles would be one way to eliminate one of those larger issues of being seen, drifting just below the surface to still enable comms.

The harder part would be hardening the computer/radio, for all radio signals are eventually found, and could likely be pinpointed.

This will likely feed the next-gen autonomous submersibles equipped with encrypting radio hardware that beacon out sync signals at random intervals and on various frequencies to avoid detection.

(And you thought the military were the ones advancing tech. Nah. It's usually drugs and porn. No, seriously.)

Re:Cargo size? (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#44981005)

The harder part would be hardening the computer/radio, for all radio signals are eventually found, and could likely be pinpointed.

You don't need to harden the computer/radio - all you need is code in computer the goes something like:

Am I near the start or end waypoint?
Yes - OK listen for instructions from sources that validate in my cryptographic code, but don't announce my location until instructed to.
No - Shut the radio down and run silent

Now lets generate 10 semi random way points and head towards them one by one.
Have I reached one of the computed waypoints?
    Is it the last computed waypoint?
        No - head for the next computed waypoint
        Yes - head for the end waypoint.

If the "opposition" knows where the start and end way points are, or know how to defeat your encryption then you have bigger problems that someone hijacking you cargo.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about a year ago | (#44982425)

Maybe you are not aware of that, but you can easily localize motored boats and identify them by the sound they emit underwater. The coast line is full of sonar devices and microphones used for many purposes and from which you can extract a signal and signature for a particular submersible or boat vehicle.

So, no matter how good is your encryption, you cannot really hide permanently. If such vehicles are to be efficient, they will need appropriate propellers and engine.

And unless you robotized cargo is near enough the coast line, nobody really cares. Anyway, it is in international waters.

Re:Cargo size? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44982897)

Sonar, both shore-based and otherwise, isn't designed to track boats this small.

Hell, if nothing else, you could just build what amounts to an animatronic dolphin.

Re:Cargo size? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44984509)

I've seen designs for thermally powered submersibles which expand at lower/higher (material chosen depending on climate) temperatures found in deep water, becoming less dense and floating to the surface. Then they contract at the temperature of the surface.

Silent propulsion, passive/internal electronics, correct skin materials and it would be nigh indistinguishable from a small whale or large fish unless you were to get within visual range or track its motion for prolonged periods.

Re:Cargo size? (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44986123)

No, they'd just need a camera so they will know who needs killing.

Re:Cargo size? (0)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about a year ago | (#44980917)

You seem to have a very personal stake in the answer. I don't think you're fooling anyone by referring to the cartels in the third person.

Will they get sued by the Boy Scouts? (1, Funny)

rMortyH (40227) | about a year ago | (#44980863)

I thought they owned that word.

Re:Will they get sued by the Boy Scouts? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#44981671)

They own the word as it is associated with a youth organization; a boat is very different. Maybe you should read up on trademarks.

Re:Will they get sued by the Boy Scouts? (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about a year ago | (#44991707)

They own the word as it is associated with a youth organization; a boat is very different. Maybe you should read up on trademarks.

Maybe you should read up jokes.

Re:Will they get sued by the Boy Scouts? (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44992559)

Maybe you should read up on how to make a funny joke.

Re:Will they get sued by the Boy Scouts? (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about a year ago | (#44994471)

Maybe you should read up on how to make a funny joke.

Maybe you should read up and see that I wasn't the joke poster.

Re:Will they get sued by the Boy Scouts? (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44995309)

tl;dr

Re:Will they get sued by the Boy Scouts? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#44993635)

Considering the number of people who believe that trademarks cover all uses of a word and the lack of indication of a joke ( :-) , /sarcasm, etc) you might understand why I took your comment seriously.

Re:Will they get sued by the Boy Scouts? (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about a year ago | (#44994465)

It was not my joke. I just can't believe the OP was serious.

Saildrone (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44980901)

Check out Saildrone at http://mstfoundation.org/story/Saildrone. I'm friends with the guys building these and they are pretty cool. The prototype made it half way to Hawaii from California before a broken sensor forced them to turn it around and have it sail back to San Francisco. I believe it did around 2500 miles in that trip

Re: Saildrone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44997047)

Saildrone is a super cool company of 4 extremely good looking,cool,guys ( one better looking than the other 3!) building sailing drones (way cooler than motors!) that have gone further than Scout and is cooler! It also does other even cooler stuff!(Top secret) And looks cooler! How cool is that?
Good luck to the Scout guys, good effort (not looking too cool right now though). Hope you get your problems fixed.

Re: Saildrone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45007381)

It doesn't even look like Saildrone has a website....not too 'cool' if you ask me....

hey, guys.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44980959)

why the fuck did you not participate in one of the several regular 'contests' or 'races' for this type of 'boat'? such as http://www.microtransat.org/ [microtransat.org] ???

Re:hey, guys.. (2)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#44981099)

why the fuck did you not participate in one of the several regular 'contests' or 'races' for this type of 'boat'? such as http://www.microtransat.org/ [microtransat.org] ???

First of all .. interesting competition.
 
Secondly .. from the rules of that competition: No source of propulsion other than wind.

The boat in TFA is electrically driven, so that might (IMHO) disqualify it from the microtransat competition.

Their data is suspect.... (4, Insightful)

jcochran (309950) | about a year ago | (#44980975)

I think that they might have issues with tracking. Or else there's something really, really screwy going on with their boat. Over a period of about 855 hours, the boat has traveled 1383 miles for an average speed of a bit over 1 mph. However, the "real time" tracking page has more than a few data points claiming outrageous speeds, like 95 mph over a 20 minute span. That figure is only the highest I saw. Also saw a few over 70 mph.

Re:Their data is suspect.... (2)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about a year ago | (#44981033)

The ocean has currents. Obviously this craft occasionally encounters some of them.

Re:Their data is suspect.... (4, Funny)

pseudofrog (570061) | about a year ago | (#44981159)

You haven't truly lived unless you've traveled in a 95 mph ocean current.

Re:Their data is suspect.... (3, Funny)

Longjmp (632577) | about a year ago | (#44981239)

You haven't truly lived unless you've traveled in a 95 mph ocean current.

Don't forget avalanche surfing in winter!

Re:Their data is suspect.... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44981779)

Current AND wind, all going in the same direction as your preferred direction of travel is still unlikely to achieve 95 or even 70 mph.

Something that small with a displacement hull form isn't going to be much above 4 knots max, and ocean currents seldom exceed 6 knots. So unless you had hurricane winds that lifted the entire craft out of the water you aren't going to get anywhere near 20mph, let alone 95.

Re:Their data is suspect.... (2, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44981899)

Speaking of which, I have some serious questions about some of their design decisions.

Example: it has a square stern, even though there is no necessity for a motor mount or the like. A rudder, sure, but that does not prevent the construction of a "boat tail" design, which is arguably much more efficient.

The slanted deck puzzled me at first, until I realized that it was for the solar panels, being in the North Atlantic.

The reverse direction of the bow does have me puzzled, though. It would seem to tend to drive the tip underwater (even if just a little), which could be a significant additional source of drag.

I saw no provision for bilge drainage or pump at all; presumably they have a lot of confidence in their waterproofing (motor shaft, rudder controls such as cable or rods). If I had done the design this would have been a very important consideration. It is an obvious potential point of failure. Even if your motor and electronics continue to function, if your hull fills with water you will be going slow indeed.

And the bilge issues is not just something "I didn't notice". It's baked into the design. There is no provision at the bottom of the bulkheads for water to move at all, for example. You don't see that in "real world" boats. Not even in submarines.

Re:Their data is suspect.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44982291)

I assume that since the "20 minute speed" that you guys are talking about is a "20 minute speed" aka distance from the last transmission to the current position divided by 20 (speed = distance/time.) If they assumed that they wouldn't miss any transmissions and would receive one every 20 minutes, they do distance/20 minutes and that's why you sometimes see 70mph (if it hasnt transmitted in a while, the server thinks that it's gone 15 miles in 20 minutes and the speed is calculated to be very high.) Probably just server side math so that they don't have to transmit extra data.

There is a bilge pump outlet on the port side, you can see it if you take a look at some of the pictures/videos.

Re:Their data is suspect.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44984275)

I saw no provision for bilge drainage or pump at all

Maybe it's full of foam. It should be if it's not.

Re:Their data is suspect.... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44986207)

Hi Jane,
Just to answer a few questions of yours,

As for the inverted bow stem I recommend looking into modern sailing yacht design, put the buoyancy where is needed and reduce windage at the same time. In fact it tends to keep the bow from driving in too much and allows for easy resurfacing if the bow does punch in....see AC72 as well as any modern catamaran design...while SCOUT is not a sail boat or cat, similar design goal are in mind especially regarding windage.

2. We do have a bilge pump, there is an electronic water sensor that turns on the bilge pump once there is enough water inside.

3. We have flow channels (ie holes) in the bottom of each bulk head to allow water to move the lowest point in the hull, where the pick up for the bilge pump is.

We are happy to help answer any other questions you guys have!

Re:Their data is suspect.... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44987767)

"Just to answer a few questions of yours,"

Hey, thanks for addressing my questions.

My thoughts about the bow were speculative. Thanks for clearing that up.

My comments about the bilge were in regard to the pictures linked to in the original post, which did not show any holes at the bottom of the bulkheads for the water to pass through. I thought that was a little strange.

Data error. perhaps it needs CRC? (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about a year ago | (#44986153)

Or maybe the probe momentarily fell into a temporal anomaly?

Almost nobody will protest as robotics eliminates another set of jobs... until it comes towards your job and nobody will defend you when the time comes. ( /. making unemployment the future for everybody outside I.T.)

Wave Glider (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44981391)

I know that the Wave Glider isn't a traditional boat, but it traveled at least twice as far as Scout is hoping to travel. It isn't quite as fast, but I believe that it has a more dependable source of energy for propulsion.

http://liquidr.com/news_events/press/2013/2013-05-15-guinness-world-record.html
http://liquidr.com/news_events/press/2012/2012-12-05-pacx-arrival-australia.html

The little boat that could ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44982543)

And Scout, being a bit short on artificial intelligence after traviling 5,600 miles decided the best course of action was to return home after noticing a small leak.

Re:The little boat that could ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44982839)

???

Where is FishPi? (1)

BetaDays (2355424) | about a year ago | (#44983555)

When I first saw the title I thought the people over at FishPi where finally on their way but I was mistaken.

http://fishpi.org/index.html

Why the hype? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44986121)

Don't understand all the hype about Scout? It is what it is, a cool project. But it's less than half way to its goal and looking very suspect already (not sure what's going on but it's not good!). It might be better to wait and see if it makes it before all the back slapping!!
Liquid Robotics and Saildrone have been clocking 1000's of NM, way more than Scout with no fanfares, just doing their thing.

Re:Why the hype? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44990313)

it's apples to oranges- these kids spent something like $6k while Liquid Robotics was funded with $45 million in venture capital....I'd like to see what these guys could do if this was their job.

Re: Why the hype? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009039)

RIP Scout! No records this time. That's the reason you shouldn't make a big song and dance until you have achieved something. Good effort, but now it just seams like an over publicized failure.

Re: Why the hype? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45032909)

Seems like it's still going.....that's the reason you shouldn't make a big song and dance about their failure until it's actually down for the count, because now you just look like an arse.

Re: Why the hype? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45034927)

Name calling on a forum...now,now!! Yes I see Scout is back and looking awesome! Nice track! Pretty sure looking at wind and current a turd would be in about the same place. Still good luck, only a couple of thousand miles or so to go.

GAME OVER (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009377)

RIP Scout. I guess no place in any history books!

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